Waikīkī was once a vast marshland whose boundaries encompassed more than 2,000-acres (as compared to its present 500-acres we call Waikīkī, today).
The name Waikīkī, which means “water spurting from many sources,” was well adapted to the character of the swampy land of ancient Waikīkī, where water from the upland valleys would gush forth from underground.
Three main valleys Makiki, Mānoa, and Pālolo are mauka of Waikīkī and through them their respective streams (and springs in Mānoa (Punahou and Kānewai)) watered the marshland below.
As they entered the flat Waikīkī Plain, the names of the streams changed; the Mānoa became the Kālia and the Pālolo became the Pāhoa (they joined near Hamohamo (now an area mauka of the Kapahulu Library.))
While at the upper elevations, the streams have the ahupuaʻa names, at lower elevations, after merging/dividing, they have different names, as they enter the ocean, Pi‘inaio, ‘Āpuakēhau and Kuekaunahi.
The Pi‘inaio (Makiki) entered the sea at Kālia (near what is now Fort DeRussy as a wide delta (kahawai,) the ‘Āpuakēhau (Mānoa and Kālia,) also called the Muliwai o Kawehewehe (“the stream that opens the way” on some maps,) emptied in the ocean at Helumoa (between the Royal Hawaiian and Moana Hotels) and the Kuekaunahi (Pālolo) once emptied into the sea at Hamohamo (near the intersection of ‘Ōhua and Kalākaua Avenues.) The land between these three streams was called Waikolu, meaning “three waters.”
The early Hawaiian settlers, who arrived around 600 AD, gradually transformed the marsh into hundreds of taro fields, fish ponds and gardens. Waikiki was once one of the most productive agricultural areas in old Hawai‘i.
Beginning in the 1400s, a vast system of irrigated taro fields and fish ponds were constructed. This field system took advantage of streams descending from Makiki, Mānoa and Pālolo valleys which also provided ample fresh water for the Hawaiians living in the ahupua‘a.
From ancient times, Waikīkī has been a popular surfing spot. Indeed, this is one of the reasons why the chiefs of old make their homes and headquarters in Waikīkī for hundreds of years.
Waikīkī, by the time of the arrival of Europeans in the Hawaiian Islands during the late eighteenth century, had long been a center of population and political power on O‘ahu.
The preeminence of Waikīkī continued into the eighteenth century and is illustrated by Kamehameha’s decision to reside there after taking control of O‘ahu by defeating the island’s chief, Kalanikūpule.
Following the Great Mahele in 1848, many of the fishponds and irrigated and dry-land agricultural plots were continued to be farmed, however at a greatly reduced scale (due to manpower limitations.)
In the 1860s and 1870s, former Asian sugar plantation workers (Japanese and Chinese) replaced the taro and farmed more than 500-acres of wetlands in rice fields, also raising fish and ducks in the ponds.
By 1892, Waikīkī had 542 acres planted in rice, representing almost 12% of the total 4,659-acres planted in rice on O‘ahu.
However, drainage problems started to develop in Waikīkī from the late nineteenth century because of urbanization, when roads were built and expanded in the area (thereby blocking runoff) and when a drainage system for land from Punchbowl to Makiki diverted surface water to Waikīkī.
Nearly 85% of present Waikīkī (most of the land west of the present Lewers Street or mauka of Kalākaua) were in wetland agriculture or aquaculture.
During the first decade of the 20th century, the US War Department acquired more than 70-acres in the Kālia portion of Waikīkī for the establishment of a military reservation called Fort DeRussy.
The Army started filling in the fishponds which covered most of the Fort – pumping fill from the ocean continuously for nearly a year in order to build up an area on which permanent structures could be built. Thus the Army began the transformation of Waikīkī from wetlands to solid ground.
In accordance with the law, a reclamation project was proposed and conducted under the pretext of doing sanitation. This project aimed to dig a canal (Ala Wai Canal of today) in the center of Waikiki and reclaim all these swamps by earth and sand dug out from the construction of the canal.
During the 1920s, the Waikīkī landscape would be transformed when the construction of the Ala Wai Drainage Canal, begun in 1921 and completed in 1928, resulted in the draining and filling in of the remaining ponds and irrigated fields of Waikīkī.
Soon after, in 1928, the construction of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel was completed (joining the Moana Hotel (1901,) marking the beginning of Waikīkī as a world-class tourist attraction.
The image is a portion of an 1877 map of the Waikīkī area (UH-Hamilton Library.) In addition, I have posted other pre-Ala Wai Canal photos/maps in a folder of like name in the Photos section.
I have a lot more stories, images and maps of old Waikīkī; this is setting the foundation for those future stories.
Jacques Arago (March 6, 1790 – November 27, 1855) was a French writer, artist and explorer.
He joined Louis de Freycinet on his 1817 voyage around the world aboard the ship Uranie.
In his book, ‘Narrative of a Voyage Round the World,’ he writes:
“I made the Tour of the World, but not as a seaman: the vessel carried me, and I wandered with it.”
“On board the Uranie, I traversed the Indian Seas; visited the South Sea Archipelago; and after doubling Cape Horn, and spending three years in dangers and fatigues, saluted the Atlantic as an old friend, and re-visited the beloved coasts of ancient Europe.”
“During our long voyage I became acquainted with numerous tribes; hunted with the Brasilian and the Guanche; danced with the negroes of Africa; and slept under the hut of the Sandwich islander.”
“I have seen much, and observed much. I visited some little known islands at which our ship did not anchor.”
“I availed myself of the length of our different rendezvous to make excursions into the interior of countries yet uncivilized, which were always amusing, and sometimes dangerous; but which enabled me to collect a variety of observations on the manners, arts, customs, and habits of the different nations which inhabited them.”
I added a folder of some of the art by Jacques Arago on his visit to Hawai‘i in 1819 on my Facebook page.
Well, they are each not exactly snowbirds, but our winter residents are returning to their second homes.
The Kōlea, Pacific Golden Plover, is a migratory bird that comes to Hawai‘i from Siberia and Alaska at the end of August and leaves for its trip across the north Pacific in late-April to early-May.
The bird’s Hawaiian name, Kōlea, is a phonetic imitation of the sound of its flight call. One olelo no‘eau (Hawaiian proverb) states ‘Ai no ke kolea a momona hoi i Kahiki!’ (The Kōlea eats until he is fat, and then returns to the land from which he came.)
Unlike many birds capable of trans-oceanic migrations, Kōlea can neither soar nor glide; and, they can’t swim.
When Kōlea fly between Hawai‘i and Alaska, they will continuously beat their wings twice per second for about fifty hours over some 2,500 miles of open ocean—one of the most grueling non-stop migrations in the avian world.
Kōlea spend each summer on the treeless tundra of western Alaska and Siberia; there, they’ll breed and incubate a clutch of eggs—Kōlea chicks are left largely on their own once they’re born.
Chicks can fly at three weeks, though not yet as far as Hawaii; when adult Kōlea lift off for the Islands in late August, they leave the young behind to follow some weeks later.
Scientists aren’t certain how the chicks find Hawai‘i. By October the juveniles arrive on our shores.
Kōlea return to and vigorously defend the same spot in their summer and winter grounds, an extreme example of what ornithologists call “site faithfulness.”
During late winter and spring, the Kōlea eat voraciously, nearly doubling their body weight to make the demanding flight north.
Another seasonal visitor is the Koholā, the Humpback Whale (part of the North Pacific stock – whales in the North Pacific also winter in western Mexico and southern Japan.)
From mid-December through mid-May the Koholā make their home in the waters surrounding the Hawaiian Islands.
An endangered species, the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary was created by Congress in 1992 to protect humpback whales and their habitat in Hawai‘i.
The sanctuary, which lies within the shallow (less than 600 feet), warm waters surrounding the main Hawaiian Islands, constitutes one of the world’s most important humpback whale habitats.
While they were here, the humpback whales were involved in courtship rituals, mating, calving and nursing their young (gestation lasts about 11 months.)
Both male and female humpback whales vocalize, however only males produce the long, loud, complex “songs” for which the species is famous.
In the Pacific, humpbacks migrate seasonally from Alaska to Hawaii – they can complete the 3,000-mile trip in as few as 36 days.
Humpbacks continuously travel at approximately three to seven miles per hour with very few stops; they typically stay near the surface during migration.
The humpbacks don’t eat during their stay in the Hawaiian Islands. Hawai‘i doesn’t offer their food, krill and herring; they carry their summer food supply in their fat.
During the summer months, humpbacks spend the majority of their time feeding and building up fat stores (blubber) that they will live off of during the winter. Humpback feeding grounds are in cold, productive coastal waters.
Soon, the last of the Kōlea and Koholā will be gone; to return, again, in the fall.
With the arrival of Western ships, new plants and animals soon found their way to the Hawaiian Islands.
The simple‐seeming gift of a few cattle given to Kamehameha I by Captain George Vancouver in 1793 made a major impact on the Hawai`i’s economy and ecosystem.
It also spawned a rich tradition of cowboy and ranch culture that is still here today.
Spaniards introduced the first cattle to Veracruz, Mexico in 1521. Vancouver picked up descendants of these animals from the Spanish mission in Monterey, California when he set off across the Pacific, intending to use them as food and gifts.
Cattle were not the only animals introduced to Hawai`i during this period. In 1778, Captain Cook left both goats and pigs.
British introduced sheep in the 1790s and they all soon roamed on Mauna Kea and Hualālai. In 1803, American Richard Cleveland presented horses ‐ a stallion and a mare ‐ to Kamehameha.
When Vancouver landed additional cattle at Kealakekua in 1794, he strongly encouraged Kamehameha to place a 10‐year kapu on them to allow the herd to grow.
In the decades that followed, cattle flourished and turned into a dangerous nuisance. By 1846, 25,000-wild cattle roamed at will and an additional 10,000-semi‐domesticated cattle lived alongside humans.
A wild bull or cow could weigh 1,200 to 1,500-pounds and had a six‐foot horn spread. Vast herds destroyed natives’ crops, ate the thatching on houses, and hurt, attacked and sometimes killed people.
Kamehameha III lifted the kapu in 1830 and the hunting of wild cattle was encouraged. The king hired cattle hunters from overseas to help in the effort; many of these were former convicts from Botany Bay in Australia.
Hunting sometimes ended in inadvertent tragedy. In 1834, the trampled dead body of Scottish botanist David Douglas, for whom the Douglas Fir tree is named, was discovered in a cattle-trap pit on Mauna Kea.
Hawaiʻi’s wild cattle population needed to be controlled for safety reasons, but the arrival of cattle hunters and Mexican vaquero (“Paniolo”) also happened to coincide with an economic opportunity.
In the early-1830s, trade in sandalwood slowed down as island forests became depleted. At about the same time, whaling ships hunting in the north Pacific began wintering in Hawaiian waters.
Ships provisioning in Hawaiʻi ports provided a market for salt beef, in addition to hides and tallow. With the economic push of providing provisions to the whaling fleets, ranching became a commercial enterprise that grew in the islands.
Cattle ranching remains an important export and food industry in Hawai‘i.
The total number of cattle and calves on Hawai‘i’s ranches as of January 1, 2012 was estimated at 140,000-head, roaming nearly 750,000-acres of pasture land.
When living in Waimea, I had a brief experience in “ranching.”
We picked up a day-old dairy bull calf from an Āhualoa dairy; we named him “Freezer Burn.” We removed the middle seat and transported him back home in our VW van. (I know; real cowboys don’t name their steers.)
After bottle-feeding him and briefly pasturing him, he ditched the premises and hooked up with part of the Parker Ranch herd.
The image shows them swimming cattle to a transport boat, farther out in the bay. In addition, I have included some other images of cattle transport using this similar technique in a folder of like name in the Photos section of my Facebook page.
In the Hawaiian legislature of 1878, Walter Murray Gibson, then a freshman member from Lāhainā, Maui, proposed a monument to the centennial of Hawaii’s “discovery” by Captain James Cook. The legislature approved and he chaired the monument committee.
Among sites which had been mentioned were Kapiʻolani Park (where the annual Kamehameha Day horse-races were held); Thomas Square (“it needed improvement”); the Kanoa lot at the junction of Merchant and King streets (“too expensive.”)
Most of the legislators favored the front of Aliʻiolani Hale (the present Judiciary Building) and this site was approved.
After Gibson had talked with artists in New York City and Boston; he made an agreement with Thomas R. Gould, a well-known Boston sculptor who used photographs of models and reviewed Hawaiian artifacts in local museums in his design.
‘Boston Evening Transcript’ of September 28, 1878, noted “It has been thought fitting that Boston, which first sent Christian teachers and ships of commerce to the Islands, should have the honor of furnishing this commemorative monument.”
While Gould was a Bostonian, he was studying in Italy, where he designed the statue; ultimately, the statue was cast in bronze in Paris.
This was not a portrait statue, the article went on, but Gould had modeled the features after an engraved portrait of Kamehameha.
At the request of the monument committee, he had modified the features to make the king seem about 45-years old. The intent was a bronze statue of “heroic size” (about eight-and-a-half-feet tall.)
The stance of the statue, with spear in left hand and right outstretched with open palm, showed the “successful warrior inviting the people … to accept the peace and order he had secured.”
The statue was shipped on August 21, 1880, by the bark ‘GF Haendel,’ and was expected about mid-December. On February 22, 1881, came word that the Haendel had gone down November 15, 1880, off the Falkland Islands. All the cargo had been lost.
About the time it was lost, King Kalākaua was on a royal tour of the island of Hawai‘i. He made a speech in front of the Kohala Post Office.
There, the King was reminded the Kamehameha Statue was destined for Honolulu, yet Kohala, the birthplace of Kamehameha, was overlooked as a place for his statue. Kohala residents then raised funds and a replica was ordered.
It turns out, however, that the original statue had been recovered and was in fair condition.
The right hand was broken off near the wrist, the spear was broken and the feather cape had a hole in it. It was taken to a shed at Aliʻiolani Hale to be repaired.
Meanwhile, on January 31, 1883, the replica ordered by Kohala tablets and a forearm for the damaged original statue arrived.
On February 14, 1883, the replica statue was unveiled at Aliʻiolani Hale during the coronation ceremonies for King Kalākaua.
As for the original statue (which had been repaired,) it was dedicated on May 8, 1883 (the anniversary of Kamehameha’s death – 193-years ago, today) and is in Kapaʻau, North Kohala outside Kohala’s community/senior center.
So, the original statue actually ended up in Kohala, where the residents felt it rightfully belonged.
However, that is not the end of the story.
There are now five different statues of Kamehameha:
• The first replica stands prominently in front of Aliʻiolani Hale in Honolulu
• The initial (repaired) casting of the statue is at Kapaʻau, North Kohala
• Another replica is in US Capitol’s visitor center in Washington DC
• Another statue is at the Wailoa River State Recreation Area in Hilo
• A statute, created by Herb Kane, is at the Grand Wailea Resort Hotel & Spa on Maui]
The image shows the original (repaired) statue in Kapaʻau in 1908.